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4. Racialized Femininities and Masculinities, and the Queerness of the Ethnic Chinese

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Part of the Studies of the Americas book series (STAM)

Abstract

In this chapter, we argue that gendered representations of Chineseness in Chilean cultural production do not only produce a heteronormative Chilean national identity. These representations that recall the East/West gendered power dynamics in Hollywood also do the important cultural and ideological work to produce and position Chile as an Occidental or culturally “Western” nation. This chapter explores the gendered dimension of East Asian conditional visibility in Chilean media, where men and women are visible in particular ways that speak to dominant gender and racial dynamics in the country. Furthermore, we examine the potential for Chineseness to signify openness and inclusion—through its association with invisibility and marginalization—in analyzing Chilean cultural productions that associate Chinese restaurants as spaces of refuge for queer persons.

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  • DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-83966-6_4
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Fig. 1

(Photograph courtesy of Viviana Shieh)

Fig. 2

(Courtesy of Jose Espínola, photographer, Orly Anan, art direction, Celine Reymond or Kali Mutsa singer, and the models Mar Sierra and Jessica Rodarte)

Fig. 3
Fig. 4

(Photograph courtesy of Yeow Khuen Chan)

Fig. 5

(Photograph courtesy of Yeow Khuen Chan)

Fig. 6

(Photograph courtesy of Yeow Khuen Chan)

Notes

  1. 1.

    Indeed, as mentioned in Chapter 1, anti-Asian racism in the “West” is closely linked to U.S. and European imperial and colonial projects in Asia. As the Critical Filipino Studies Collective succinctly summarized this point in relation the U.S. context: “Racial and gendered discrimination against Asian Americans cannot be separated from U.S. imperialism in Asia. The United States colonized the Philippines and waged war and bombing campaigns on the Korean peninsula and throughout Southeast Asia during the Cold War. U.S. military bases in Korea, Okinawa, the Philippines, Thailand, Hawaiʻi, Guåhan, and others across the Asia–Pacific have created conditions where local and indigenous communities have been occupied and made dependent on the U.S. military. Through this militarization, Asian women have been hyper-sexualized, exoticized, and transformed into objects of desire for U.S. soldiers and ex-pats, with some Asian women turning to sex work as means of survival and livelihood. The U.S. pivot to Asia under Obama and contemporary anti-China rhetoric and policy are only the latest examples of U.S. aggression. Anti-Asian racism must be analyzed with a global lens addressing the relationship between U.S. empire and the ongoing constructions of Asian Americans as the exotic Other, the “perpetual foreigner” and “enemy aliens.” These tropes are not mere byproducts of U.S. empire, they sanctify U.S. interventions overseas.” See https://cfscollective.org/statements/filipinaxo-american-scholars-unite-to-condemn-anti-asian-hate-and-white-supremacy.

  2. 2.

    See for example, the success of Crazy Rich Asians (Chu, 2018), notwithstanding criticisms that on the whole, the movie did not challenge stereotypes (Ellis-Petersen & Kuo, 2018).

  3. 3.

    Of Korean descent, her Instagram account @franchekal has over a hundred thousand followers, which is a significant number in the Chilean context.

  4. 4.

    Fragments and covers of her songs “Tu falta de querer” and “La mujer” translated into Japanese are also available on YouTube (‘“Tu Falta de Querer” ¿en Japonés?’, 2017).

  5. 5.

    For example, the Chilean singer Kiku Suzuki was famous in the 1960s for her song “Chinito de amor” (Chinese of love). Born as Silvia Valenzuela, she chose her Japanese stage name due to advice from a radio producer to build her career drawing on her unique mixed Japanese ancestry. Her other hits included titles such as “La jovencita de la calle Ginza” (The young girl on Ginza street) and “La chica de Tokio” (The girl from Tokyo). This example is also discussed in Chapter 8.

  6. 6.

    In the case of songs that are popular in Latin America, the sexualization of Asian femininity is evident in the song “Pamela Chu,” of which there are many versions (Club Atlético Carnaval, 2007; Vaqueros Musical, 2009); the song conflates different “Asian” elements in the figure of “Pamela Chu”, a play on words which, when said with Chu before Pamela, refer to felatio. A Chilean journalist described K-pop bands as playing with “a contained sensuality” (Valdivieso, 2013). In the case of the popular theater play La negra Ester by the Chilean Roberto Parra (1971), which was famously presented by Chilean director Andrés Pérez (1988), one of the characters presents herself as “The Japanese” (La Japonesita). In his setup, Pérez presents the prostitutes and characters with masks, something that has been interpreted as due to the possible influence of East Asian theater (Obregón, 2015); another character is called “el chino”.

  7. 7.

    See “La historia de la nueva geisha chilena” (Hola Chile La Red, 2015). Her case drew some international attention, covered by The Mirror, UK (Macfarlane, 2015). There is also a news report comparing the two “geishas” (Chilevisión, 2015).

  8. 8.

    Kali Mutsa is the stage name of a Chilean singer, and Imaabs is the producer alias of the Chilean artist Cristo Gavras (Imaabs · Artist ⟋ RA, 2021).

  9. 9.

    The image also recalls a genre of Japanese dolls that are actually robots. While this is beyond the scope of our discussion, we would like to note an existing link between sensual and violent female figures and robotic beings. For more, see: https://artduckomagazine.wordpress.com/2017/10/11/ghost-in-the-shell-2-innocence-and-why-automated-dolls-creep-me-out-so-much-by-lauren-allen/.

  10. 10.

    For example, in the Chilean-created viral video of “Chinese Homer” or “Homero Chino,” the main source of humor in the video is that “Homer” is a “Chinese” version of the character. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-uEwcXUu-CU.

  11. 11.

    The Chilean program was originally called Show Dominical in 1962, and in 1965 it was called Sábado Gigante (2014). Since the 1990s, the show was produced in the United States and distributed throughout Latin America, until its last episode in 2015.

  12. 12.

    His instagram account is: https://www.instagram.com/yuhui_po/. At the time the book goes to press, Yuhui Lee had unfortunately taken down many images from his account, including the ones analyzed in this chapter.

  13. 13.

    In January 2021, the producers announced that they would end the program permanently. By 2015, the program had already received more than 120 official complaints lodged to the Chilean National Television Council (CNTV), regarding its offensive content (Córdova, 2018).

  14. 14.

    This inclusivity has also been observed in relation to Asian Pop (A-pop) culture in Chile. As an A-Pop fan was quoted in research on the topic, “one of the biggest reasons for people to prefer K-pop for life is that it does not matter if one is lesbian, gay, or bisexual. Here they accept you as you are like that and that’s it, no questioning. Here it does not matter, it is the best” (Macchi and Pablo 2014, p. 24).

  15. 15.

    Lelio has cited Wong as an important influence (González, 2018).

  16. 16.

    There are many versions of this song for children, including the popular one by Topo Gigio, an Italian popular in Latin America puppet show, as well as other more recent ones (see, for example, Thalía, 2014).

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Correspondence to Maria Montt Strabucchi .

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Montt Strabucchi, M., Chan, C., Ríos, M.E. (2022). 4. Racialized Femininities and Masculinities, and the Queerness of the Ethnic Chinese. In: Chineseness in Chile. Studies of the Americas. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-83966-6_4

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